(3:30 PM, Friday, Solis-Cohen Auditorium)
E. Loren Buhle, Jr., Ph.D.
University of Pennsylvania
"Use of the Internet for Medical Information" (OncoLink)
Medical and medically related information on the Internet enables rapid,
timely and cost effective dissemination of medical information to interested
parties throughout the world. This talk is based on my experiences with
OncoLink, an award winning cancer information resource. Since its creation in
March of 1994, OncoLink has touched the lives of millions of people throughout
the world. This article will discuss the motivation, uses and future of
healthcare resources like OncoLink.
The people surfing the Internet for medical information appear to fall
into two categories: (1) those health responsible individuals intent on
maintaining or improving their own health and the health of their families and
(2) individuals confronting acute or chronic illness. Many of people with
acute, life-threatening illness have just experienced the shock of a
diagnosis, such as cancer, and have an intense desire to learn the latest
information about their disease. They often wish to make contact with similar
users drawn together by their illness. Patients with chronic health problems,
such as diabetics, often seek a sense of community with fellow patients to
share new findings, methods of coping and experience a sense of togetherness.
The Internet provides as powerful set of tools at the disposal of the
individual seeking information. Tools such as World-Wide-Web (WWW) browsers are
appearing on commercial internet providers, allowing the casual user to browse
medical information throughout the world. A user may begin with an
introductory document and find a word, concept, reference -- indeed, any point
that requires further expansion -- appear underlined as a hypertext key. A
simple click of the mouse on this hypertext key fetches more
information, be it sound, video, pictures or more text from somewhere on the
Internet. Like picking up a ringing telephone and speaking to the party on the
other end, the user is insulated from the 'hows' and 'whys' of the information
gathering process. By the same token, a simple button press on a WWW menu may
unleash powerful search engines to scour multiple sources simultaneously around
the world. The result of this search is the equivalent of opening several books
to the appropriate page from libraries around the world.
Medical resources are just beginning to appear on the Internet. I believe
these resources will play a revolutionary role in the dissemination of medical
and medically related information on the Internet. OncoLink was a beginning and
we are ready to proceed to the next step.